BOSTON (1/4/2024)—Today, the Massachusetts Senate voted unanimously to strengthen consumer protections for wheelchair users.

 An Act expanding wheelchair warranty protections for consumers with disabilities—S.2541requires all wheelchairs to come with warranties, extends the minimum warranty period to two years, sets standards for wheelchair repairs and replacements, and eliminates the cumbersome prior authorization process for all wheelchair repairs under $1,000.

By enhancing warranty protections, we are not only safeguarding the rights of consumers but also promoting inclusivity and independence for those with disabilities. This legislation is a significant step towards creating a more accessible and equitable Commonwealth, where individuals with mobility challenges can confidently rely on their wheelchairs without the fear of inadequate support or financial burden,” said Senator Michael D. Brady (D-Brockton).

The legislation requires all wheelchairs sold or leased in the Commonwealth to come with express warranties—a change from the current law, which only requires customized wheelchairs to come with express warranties. The legislation also extends express warranties for wheelchairs from one year to two years, bringing Massachusetts in line with states like Rhode Island and Connecticut. To alleviate wait times for repairs, the bill mandates that wheelchair service providers diagnose repair issues remotely within three business days following notice from a consumer and provide an in-person assessment no more than four business days after that.

If a wheelchair user cannot operate their in-warranty chair during the repair process, the bill mandates that manufacturers or dealers reimburse them for or provide a loaner wheelchair within four business days for most wheelchairs, or within eight business days for highly customized wheelchairs.

The bill also requires manufacturers and dealers to cover any collateral costs incurred during the repair process for in-warranty wheelchairs. For out-of-warranty wheelchairs, the legislation prohibits insurers for requiring consumers to go through a cumbersome prior authorization process for any repairs totaling less than $1,000. Finally, the bill allows the Attorney General’s office to take legal action against service providers who violate these provisions with unfair or deceptive business practices.

The legislation has received strong support from disability advocates across Massachusetts.

“S.2541 reflects an understanding of the challenges faced by wheelchair users and sets a new standard for consumer protection that will improve the quality of life for wheelchair users across the Commonwealth,” said Barbara L’Italien, Executive Director of the Disability Law Center. “We are grateful to Senate President Spilka, Senator Cronin, and the Massachusetts Senate for recognizing the profound impact this legislation will have on individuals with disabilities who utilize wheelchairs.”

“When a wheelchair, providing mobility so people can integrate into the community, too often breaks down, with waits as long as a year for repairs—we can fix cars and bikes in a day! —we have a serious problem,” Kay Schoucair, Senior Organizer, Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL). “The time is overdue for manufacturers to simply stand behind their products. BCIL applauds the senate for pushing this much needed bill forward.”

A similar version of the legislation was passed by the Senate in 2022, however that legislation did not further advance in the Legislature.

Having been passed by the Senate, the legislation now heads to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.